Friday, October 11, 2013

Itsmyluckyday Preparing for His Return

Itsmyluckyday Preparing for His Return                            10 Oct '13
 by Jim Freer

Itsmyluckyday is recovering from a back injury and is on target to return to racing within several months, according to his assistant trainer Frank Perez.

Itsmyluckyday has been one of 2013's top 3-year-olds, with wins in two stakes races at Gulfstream Park followed by second place finishes in the Florida Derby (Grade 1) at Gulfstream and the Preakness Stakes (Grade 1) at Pimlico.

On June 18, he fractured his Ilium, a bone in the pelvic region, during  the Pegasus Stakes (Grade 3) at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Jockey Mike Smith pulled Itsmyluckyday up midway through the race.

No surgery was done on Itsmyluckyday, who is trained by Eddie Plesa, Jr.  The horse has been resting and recuperating at a farm in Kentucky.

"He's coming along well, and we'll bring him back down here in a couple of days," Perez said at Gulfstream on Oct. 5th. Itsmyluckyday will go to Gulfstream's Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach. Plesa will watch the horse's training progress before picking a return race, Perez said.

The comeback race for Itsmyluckyday will probably be at Gulfstream or at Calder Casino & Race Course. Over the Oct. 5th-6th weekend, Plesa was at Monmouth Park. He divides his summers between that track and South Florida, with Perez heading operations at Gulfstream and Calder when Plesa is in New Jersey.
Itsmyluckyday has won five of 13 starts and has earned $830,100.

At Gulfstream this year, he won the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby and set a track record of 1:41.81 for 1 1/16 miles in winning the Holy Bull (Grade 3)..
He then finished second to Orb in the Florida Derby.

Itsmyluckyday finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby, which Orb won on a sloppy track. Several days later, Plesa said he "drew a line through the race" because Itsmyluckyday had difficulty with the track. He rebounded to finish second to Oxbow in the Preakness. Itsmyluckyday is owned by Laurie Plesa, Eddie's wife, and Trilogy Stable.
The partners in Trilogy are David and Olga Melin, who live in Sunny Isles Beach, and Marion Montanari.

Itsmyluckyday is a Kentucky-bred son of Lawyer Ron. In 2007, Lawyer Ron won the Whitney and the Woodward, both Grade 1 at  1 1/8 miles at  Saratoga.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Little Mike to Seek Repeat in Breeders' Cup Turf

by Jim Freer
8 October '13

If you look up the term "gutsy gelding" in the encyclopedia you might find a picture of and a story on Little Mike, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf (Grade 1) champion who is owned by Priscilla and Carlo Vaccarezza of Parkland .

Little Mike is headed toward that  race again this year. It will be on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., the site of last year's Breeders' Cup races.

In his final  prep for this year's $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf,  the 6-year-old Little Mike beat Big Blue Kitten by a nose in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (Grade 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 28.

Meanwhile, Vaccarezza expects Little Mike will be happy and healthy enough to keep racing next year.  And maybe his 2014 season will include his  first meeting with the acclaimed turf star Wise Dan,

In the Joe Hirsch, Little Mike showed his tactical speed and grit. With Mike Smith riding  him for the first time, he took the lead midway through the stretch and held off a late charge by Big Blue Kitten to win by a nose.

"Mike will ride him again in the Breeders' Cup," Vaccarezza said on Oct. 5th at Gulfstream Park.

Smith is based in California and has ridden numerous  stakes winners, including the legendary Zenyatta.

Ramon Dominguez  rode Little Mike in last year's Breeders'  Cup Turf and in several other races.  But he has retired, after suffering a skull fracture in a spill during a race at Aqueduct on Jan. 18.

For the past several months, Little Mike has been at trainer Dale Romans' base at Churchill Downs.

"We  will fly Little  Mike to California on Oct. 14," Vaccarezza said. "He set a Breeders' Cup record last year. So, he obviously  likes it at Santa Anita."

Little Mike won last year's Breeders' Cup Turf in 2:22.83.  He took the lead about  a quarter mile from the wire and beat the late-running Point of Entry  by 1 1/4 lengths.

Carlo Vaccarezza owns Hay Jude, the mother of Little Mike.  In 2006, he bred her to Spanish Steps at a farm in Ocala.

Little Mike is named for the Vaccarezzas'  son Mike.

The horse Little Mike has won13 of 26 career starts with earnings  just under $3.5 million.  Four  of his wins were in stakes at Gulfstream.

Last year, Little Mike won three Grade 1 turf stakes.  In addition to the Breeders' Cup he won the Woodford Reserve at  Churchill Downs and the Arlington Million at Arlington Park  in Arlington Heights, Ill.  He also won the Sunshine Millions Turf at  Gulfstream.

With that record, Vaccarezza felt Little Mike should have won the Eclipse Award as Champion Turf Horse.

But Little Mike finished  second to Wise Dan in the voting by racing writers  and industry officials. Wise Dan also won the Eclipse for Horse of  the Year.

Last  year, Wise Dan won five graded turf stakes.  He  ended his season with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile, a  turf race.

Wise Dan had a nine-race  win streak, all in graded  turf stakes,  snapped on Oct. 5th  when he finished second to Silver Max in the Shadwell Turf (Grade 2) at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.  The Shadwell was moved to Keeneland's main synthetic track because  of rain.

Wise Dan also is a 6-year-old gelding.

Inside Florida Horse Racing mentioned to Vaccarezza that many fans and some potential race track sites would like to see a first  match-up of Little  Mike and Wise  Dan.

"There would be a lot of interest, and we'd like to race Wise Dan," said Vaccarezza,  who is an owner of and managing partner at Frank & Dino's restaurant in Deerfield Beach. 

"But  Dale and I won't change our plans just for that," he said.  "Wise Dan has shown that he is best at a mile. Little Mike is at his best at longer distances, and  a  mile and a half seems to suit him."

Vaccarezza added: "Maybe we can find a race next year. The  Woodford Reserve is a mile and an eighth.  We won it last year and Wise Dan won it this year."

The Woodford  Reserve is always the last race right before the Kentucky Derby - and May 3rd is next year's Derby Day.
But for the next month, Vaccarezza is not making firm plans past Breeders' Cup day for Little Mike.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Calder's Festival Preview to Feature 2-Year-Olds

by Jim Freer

Saturday,  Sept.14th -The colts Best Plan Yet and Brothersofthetime and the filly Flat Out Charming have thus far been secondary stars among South Florida's 2013 crop of 2-year-olds.
They will have their chances to make  headlines on Saturday at Calder  Casino & Race Course. Best Plan Yet  and Brothersofthetime will probably be the  favorites in  the $85,000 Foolish Pleasure  Stakes  and  Flat Out  Charming will head the field  in the $85,000 Brave Raj. Both are one mile and 70 yards  on dirt.
Calder will have two other stakes on Saturday's  annual Festival Preview card.
The $70,000 Judy's Red Shoes is for 3-year-old  fillies and  the $70,000 Needles is for  3-year-old males.  Both are 1 1/16 miles on turf.
Calder officials  expect that many  of the horses in Saturday's stakes  will be back for  richer stakes races at the annual Festival of  the Sun on Oct. 12.
Gulfstream Park will have one stakes on Saturday--the $100,000 Montbrook at one mile on dirt for 3-yeatr-olds and up.

Calder 2-YO Stakes
As in other years, several trainers are using the  Brave Raj and Foolish Pleasure as preps for the final races in the Florida Stallion Stakes Series on Oct. 12.
Saturday's fields do not  include My Brown Eyed Guy, winner of the first two  legs of the Stallion Stakes male  division, or Scandalous Act,  winner of the first two races in the filly division.
Those two horses are not scheduled to race until Oct. 12, when they will seek Stallion Stakes sweeps for their breeder/owner Gilbert Campbell and  trainer Kathleen O'Connell.
Scandalous Act will be in the  $300,000 My Dear Girl and  My  Brown Eyed Guy will be in the $300,000 In Reality--both  at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Foolish Pleasure
A big handicapping question will be how to  choose between Best Plan Yet, Brothersofthetime and East Hall based on the Foolish Pleasure distance.
Best Plan Yet comes into the race after strong second place finishes to My Brown Eyed Guy in Stallion Stakes races.  But the Foolish Pleasure will be his first race longer than  seven furlongs and first  around  two turns.
On  Aug. 24 at Calder, Brothersofthetime held  off  a late run by East Hall to win by a nose  in the one mile Seacliff Stakes  in the modest time of 1:42.01.
DNA Approved struggled in the stretch and  finished third. He also is back for the Foolish Pleasure.
On Aug. 24 in the seven furlong Affirmed Stakes,, Best  Plan Yet finished  2 1//4 lengths  behind the dominant My  Brown Eyed Guy and was expanding his own lead over the rest of  the field.
Best  Plan Yet earned an Equibase  speed  figure of 92 while Brothersofthetime earned just a 78 in their Aug. 24 races.
The Foolish Pleasure  also has the  speedy The Battle Is On and Union Cash, from the Campbell-O'Connell barn.
Prediction:  Best Plan Yet,  Brothersofthetime, The  Battle Is On, East Hall.

Brave Raj
Flat Out Charming rallied  to beat Light Bringer by a nose in the one mile Lindsay Frolic  Stakes on Aug. 24.
Look of a Star finished  third in  that race  where  the  winning time was a relatively weak 1:42.89.
All three will be in the  Brave Raj.
The race also will have Quinnkat and Magical Holiday who finished second and  third while being crushed  by Scandalous  Act in the  seven furlong Susan's Girl  on Aug.  24   Scandalous Act won  by 8 1/2 lengths over Quinnkat  with Holiday Magic a neck behind in third.
Prediction: Flat Out Charming, Holiday Magic, Quinnkat, Light Bringer.

Some History
The Brave  Raj and  Foolish Pleasure do not  have the depth and star power of most of the recent graded 2-year-old  stakes at tracks  such as Saratoga,  Del Mar and  Churchill Downs.
But fans locally and nationally will be looking to see if another star or two will come out of  the Calder stakes, like Rose to Gold and  Itsmyluckyday did last  year.
After  winning the Foolish  Pleasure, Itsmyluckyday went on to a high-profile 2013 campaign that included a victory in the Holy  Bull at Gulfstream and  a second  place  finish in the  Preakness Stakes.
Rose to Gold won the Brave Raj. She later  won a graded stakes at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., and  two  graded stakes at Oaklawn Park  in Hot Springs,  Ark.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gulfstream and Calder Weekend Recap

by Jim Freer

On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Angelica Zapata showed that she is not "just a Calder horse" and that she is far more than a dirt track specialist. 
She did that with an impressive win in Gulfstream’s $100,000 Wasted Tears Stakes at 1 1./16 miles on turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. The 5-year-old Angelica Zapata beat the fast-closing Ann of the Dance by 1 1/4 lengths and accomplished two goals for her trainer Ron Pellegrini and her owner Herman Van Den Broeck.

The win was Angelica Zapata’s first in five career races on turf and it came in her first Gulfstream race.
That added to the resume of a horse that became a local star last year when she reeled off four straight stakes wins at Calder Casino & Race Course. All were one mile or longer on dirt.

"She got a clean trip," Pellegrini said following the Wasted Tears. "Every other race on turf, she’s had a bad trip." He added: "I’ve always thought this filly could run as good on turf as the dirt. In fact, when she was three, I thought she was a better turf horse." 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekend Features: Gulfstream Turf Stakes on Saturday and Monday

By Jim Freer

Friday, Aug. 30 -- The South Florida racing schedule will have several changes this Labor Day weekend.

Gulfstream Park will have a three-day weekend as it adds a nine-race program on Monday with first post time of 1:15 p.m..

Calder Casino & Race Course is sticking with its Friday through Sunday schedule.

Starting this Sunday, Calder will move its daily first post time up to 12:30 p.m., fom the previous 12:50 p.m. The change coincides with Saturday’s end of the annual Calder meet and Sunday’s start of the annual Tropical at Calder meet.

Calder owns and uses two racing permits - its own and the permit of Tropical Park which last held racing in 1972. Calder will not offer any stakes races this weekend.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stallion Stakes Sweep Possible for Campbell-O’Connell Team

by Jim Freer                                                                                        

Fans of 2-year-old racing in Florida are circling Saturday Oct. 12 on their calendars.

That’s the date when My Brown Eyed  Guy  and  Scandalous Act, both bred and owned by Gilbert Campbell and trained by  Kathleen  O:Connell, will attempt to carry out historic sweeps in the Florida Stallion  Stakes Series.

Last Saturday at Calder Casino & Race Course, those stablemates were runaway winners of the second legs of  their  divisions of  the  three-race series for 2-year-olds.  My  Brown Eyed Guy  won the Affirmed Stakes for  males and  Scandalous Act  won  the  Susan’s Girl Stakes for  fillies - both at seven furlongs on dirt.

Barring injuries or other setbacks, My Brown Eyed  Guy will be in the  $300,000  In Reality Stakes and  Scandalous Act will head the field in  the  $300,00 My Dear Girl at Calder on October 12th. Both races are 1-1/16 miles on the dirt.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Pal Chrisy Wins Gulfstream Stakes in Debut for Wolfson

by Jim Freer

Saturday, Aug. 17 -- The juggernaut team of Miller Racing and trainer Marty Wolfson won yet another South Florida distaff stakes race on Saturday, this time with their newly acquired My Pal Chrisy.The 5-year-old mare’s victory came in the $100,000 Paseana Stakes at six furlongs on dirt at Gulfstream Park.

It was My Pal Chrisy’s first race for her new connections since Miller Racing bought her late last month from trainer-owner Padarath “Tony” Lutchman for an undisclosed price.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stallion Stakes Series Begins at Calder - maybe for the last time

by Jim Freer

Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course will both have stakes races today as they begin their third weekend of head-to-head racing.Calder will have the bigger story as it holds the first two races in the annual Florida Stallion Stakes series for 2-year-olds.

But it could be the start of a last hurrah for Calder which has been the home of the Stallion Stakes series since its inception in 1982.

The series, with divisions for males and for fillies, will continue on Aug. 24 and end on Oct. 10. Until this year, Calder has been the only Florida track running during the summer and fall.

This month Gulfstream and Calder both applied with the sponsoring Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and owners Association (Florida TBOA) to hold the series in 2014.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Calder vs. Gulfstream

by Jim Freer

When the name at the top of a TV monitor or a computer screen is Gulfstream, many fans around the country will bet on a race even if it doesn’t have horses like Orb or jockeys like John Velazquez.

That’s the biggest lesson of the second weekend of head-to-head racing between Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course.

Gulfstream walloped Calder 4-1 in the battle for bettors, with a combined $5.5 million to $1.4 million in all-sources handle on Saturday July 13 and Sunday July 14.

The Gulfstream numbers met the expectations of the track’s president Tim Ritvo. For months he has been saying that the Gulfstream brand would be a national attraction during the track’s first summer meet—although certainly not as luring and star-studded as its traditional winter meet.